Coco Crisp boosted the A’s early on, giving them a lead four pitches into the game. Then, the A’s couldn’t do anything right on offense.
Despite struggling to keep his pitch count to a minimum, Justin Verlander struck out 11 through seven strong innings as the Tigers beat the A’s 3-1 in Game 1 of the ALDS. Verlander picked up the win, while Jarrod Parker, who allowed three runs (two earned) in over six innings, took the loss.
Parker made an error that brought home a run for the Tigers, and he allowed a home run to Alex Avila. Despite having decent stats for the game, he didn’t pitch well. A lot of good contact was made, and his defense made some nice plays behind him. Yoenis Cespedes couldn’t make a great play on the ball that Avila hit, though. Parker made one of many mistakes, and Avila pounced.
He threw a high fastball, and Avila hit it the opposite way. It was a first-pitch meatball, right in Avila’s wheelhouse (it was right over the plate, too). The ball went over the left field fence for a home run, doubling Detroit’s lead. Parker allowed two early hits to Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry to start the game, before inducing a double play to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. However, it brought home the tying run and negated Crisp’s home run.
Verlander woke up after his mistakes, although it took him a lot of pitches. He made some mistakes early, but he took advantage of a large strike zone, got ahead of counts and finished off hitters. He settled in during the middle innings, striking out five batters in the sixth and seventh inning. More than half of the outs he got were by way of the strikeout, which isn’t rare for Verlander.
Joaquin Benoit came in during the eighth, and he struggled. Cespedes singled, and Brandon Moss hit the first pitch he saw to deep right field. However, Andy Dirks caught it at the warning track, as Moss just got under the pitch. Jose Valverde, who is known as an exciting but erratic closer, located his pitches and struck out two batters while jamming George Kottaras on a popup to finish off the game.
In the third, Berry hit a slow grounder to the right side, and Parker fielded it. He flipped the ball to first base, only to realize no one was there. Omar Infante rushed home with the go-ahead run, although a spectacular running catch by Cliff Pennington allowed Parker to escape further damage. Parker got a lot of help from his defense, as they made three great plays behind him.
It wasn’t enough for the A’s to win, though. There weren’t many bright spots aside from the defense in this game, but Pat Neshek was one of them. His son lived less than 24 hours and died suddenly Wednesday night, which deeply saddened Neshek, his family, the A’s, the MLB, and the world. However, he bounced back and was able to pitch.
He did well, too, which was great for the team. Unfortunately for the A’s, it wasn’t enough. They failed to figure out Verlander, who was able to throw heat in the later innings and stop the A’s while keeping his bullpen fresh. They couldn’t capitalize on a chance against Benoit, and they couldn’t start a rally against Valverde, who isn’t known for 1-2-3 innings.
They’ve been doing it all year, but they couldn’t do it against the Tigers. Will it matter? Will they learn from their mistakes? What’s next for the A’s?
Those are all reasonable questions, and they will probably be answered in Game 2. However, if the A’s can’t start capitalizing on chances, if they can’t stop striking out (they went down 14 times by way of the strikeout), and if they can’t figure out Verlander (who will start Game 5 if there is one), this magical season may come to an end.